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High Altitude Cooking EX


Guide E-215


N ®
Martha Archuleta E RSI

Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist

Cooperative Extension Service • College of Agriculture and Home Economics

This publication is scheduled to be updated and reissued 3/10.

High altitude presents several challenges when preparing more time may be required at 5,000 ft. than at sea level.
some foods. First, leavened products, using either yeast, Use the sea-level time and temperature when oven-
baking powder, baking soda, egg whites or steam, rise roasting meats, as oven temperatures are not affected by
more rapidly and often collapse. Second, foods such as altitude changes.
vegetables and stews cooked with moist heat take much Hard-cooked eggs require additional time. Place cold
longer to prepare. eggs in a saucepan, and cover with cool tap water. Cover
Atmospheric (air) pressure is 14.7 pounds per square and set heat on high. When water temperature ap-
inch (psi) at sea level; at 5,000 ft altitude, it is 12.28 psi; proaches a gentle simmer, reduce heat to a low setting. At
and at 10,000 ft, 10.2 psi. The relationship is inverse: 5,000 ft it will take about 25 minutes for eggs to cook.
the higher the elevation, the lower the air pressure. At The traditional 3-minute egg may take 5 to 6 minutes.
higher altitudes then, air pressure is less on both leav-
ened products and the surface of boiling liquids.
As atmospheric pressure decreases, water boils at CANDIES AND FROSTINGS
lower temperatures. At sea level, it boils at 212°F while Boiling causes loss of moisture through evaporation; thus,
each 500-ft increase in altitude causes a drop of about 1° the lower the boiling point, the sooner evaporation be-
in the boiling point. At very high altitudes, boiling wa- gins. At high altitudes all liquids boil at temperatures be-
ter is relatively “cool.” Since heat, not boiling, cooks low 212°, requiring adjustments for candies and frostings.
foods at higher altitudes, more time is required for food When sugar mixtures are cooked to the temperatures
to reach the desired internal cooking temperature. suggested in sea-level recipes, at high altitudes the faster
Low humidity, not necessarily an altitude factor but water loss causes the mixture to become too concen-
certainly a reality in New Mexico, causes ingredients trated. Depending on the candy or sugar mixture, the
such as flour to dry out and may produce dry, crumbly results may become “sugary” or hard as the sugar
baked products. re-crystallizes.
The following guidelines will reduce the number of bak- To adjust sugar recipes for altitude, reduce the
ing failures or partially cooked foods frequently experi- “finish” temperature. If you use a candy thermometer,
enced by those living at high altitudes with low humidity. first test the temperature at which water boils. While
weather conditions may cause minor changes from day
to day, the range is usually slight. The finish tempera-
FOODS COOKED WITH MOISTURE ture should be reduced by the difference between the
Vegetables, legumes, pot roasts, soups, and stews pre- water boiling temperature and 212° (table 1).
pared at a 5,000 ft altitude require additional cooking At 5,000-foot altitude, water boils at approximately
time. Vegetable cookery is greatly affected by size, variety, 202°, 10° less than at sea level; thus reduce the finish
and maturity of the product, and adjustments must be temperature for the candy or frosting by 10°. For ex-
made accordingly at any altitude. Preparation time can be ample, if a sea-level recipe for creamy fudge gives a fin-
reduced by one-fourth to one-third by using a pressure ish temperature of 238°, the corrected thermometer
saucepan, which causes the temperature of boiling water reading would be 228° at 5,000 ft. The cold-water test
to increase pressure builds within the sealed container. is reliable at any altitude as it depends solely upon the
Meat cooked by simmering or braising requires addi- appearance of the candy in water.
tional time at higher altitudes. In general, one-fourth

To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agriculture and Home Economics on the
World Wide Web at www.cahe.nmsu.edu
Table 1. Sugar cookery adjustment.
Finish temperature
Cold-water test Sea level 2,000 ft 5,000 ft 7,500 ft
Creamy candies Soft ball 234-240°F 230-236°F 224-230°F 219-225°F
and fillling
Chewy candies Firm ball 242-248° F 238-244°F 232-238°F 227-233°F
Pulled candies, Hard ball 250-268°F 246-264°F 240-248°F 235-253°F
fillings, and
frostings with
egg whites
Toffees Soft crack 270-290°F 266-286°F 260-280°F 255-275°F
Brittles Hard crack 300-310°F 296-306°F 290-300°F 285-295°F


1 cup sugar At altitudes above 3,500 ft, increase the oven tempera-
1/4 cup water ture 25° over the temperature required at sea level unless
1/4 cup white corn syrup using glass pans when no increase is needed. (Glass does
1 egg white not conduct heat as efficiently as metal.) For example,
2 marshmallows cakes baked in metal pans at sea level at 350° should be
1/2 teaspoon vanilla baked at 375° at all altitudes over 3,500 ft. Faster bak-
1/4 teaspoon almond extract ing “sets” the cell framework within the flour mixture
and helps prevent falling. Use this adjustment for all
Cook sugar, water and corn syrup until mixture leavened foods that are high in sugar and shortening.
forms a firm soft ball in cold water (231° at 5,000 ft). In areas of low humidity, dry ingredients (specifically
Beat egg white until it forms a soft peak that droops flour) become excessively dry unless stored in air-tight
slightly; cut marshmallows in eighths and add to containers. A scant decrease in flour or an additional
candy mixture. tablespoon of liquid per cup of flour will often bring a
Gradually pour hot syrup on egg white mixture, beat- batter or dough to the correct consistency.
ing continuously until icing holds shape and is practi- Recipes must be adjusted for flour mixtures that con-
cally cold. Add flavorings and spread on cool cake. tain considerable amounts of sugar and shortening and
Makes frosting for top and sides of two 9-inch layers. that are leavened with carbon dioxide gas from baking
powder or soda and acid (table 2).
Some sea-level cakes are delicate and defy adjustment
JELLY to varying altitudes. Rather than try to adjust such reci-
The finish temperature for jelly is 220° at sea level, or 8° pes, choose a new favorite from altitude-tested recipes,
above the boiling point of water. At 5,000 ft jelly should be such as the pound cake recipe below. Other recipes, es-
cooked to 210° as water usually boils at 202° at that altitude. pecially commercial cake mixes, are so well balanced
The “sheet” test from a metal spoon remains that little, if any, adjustment may be necessary up to
reliable at all altitudes. As jelly thickens in cooking, in- 5,000 ft. Cake and Mix Recipes for High Altitudes in New
dividual drops run together into a “sheet” that breaks Mexico is available for a small fee from the NMSU’S
cleanly off the edge of the spoon. Cooperative Extension Service.

Cakes without fat: Air from beaten eggs is the leav-

DEEP-FAT FRYING ening agent. For angel food cakes beat egg whites until
Deep-fat frying vaporizes the moisture in foods, and liq- they form peaks that droop slightly; in sponge cakes,
uids vaporize at lower temperatures in higher altitudes. beat eggs or egg yolks until slightly thickened.
To prevent fried foods from being dry when cooked at
high altitudes, decrease the temperature 2-3° for each Cakes with fat: Solid shortening gives good results
1,000 ft of elevation. For example, fry doughnuts at in high altitude baking because the emulsifier enables
350-360° at 5,000 ft, rather than the temperature of the shortening to tolerate a larger amount of liquid.
370° specified in the recipe. Solid shortening is preferred for “speed-mix” cakes with
a high sugar ratio.

Guide E-215 • Page 2

Flour: All-purpose flour is preferred as its high glu- 3 cups cake flour
ten content provides strength. Always sift before mea- 1 3/4 cups sugar
suring and make the following adjustments per cup of 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
flour (table 2). 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup shortening
Egg: An additional egg provides moisture and 4 eggs plus enough milk to make one cup
strength. 3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons flavoring
Leavening: Baking powders and baking soda are
treated alike in reductions for increased altitudes. When Baking time: 1 1/4 hours
both baking powder and soda are used in a recipe, make Oven temperature: 350°F
the suggested adjustments in both ingredients. Accurate
measurement of leavening is critical as altitude increases. Place sifted dry ingredients in large mixing bowl and
cut in shortening. Break eggs into a one-cup measuring
Table 2. Flour adjustments. cup and add enough milk to make one cup. Stir eggs
Elevation in feet Increase flour and milk and pour into dry ingredients. Beat on me-
3,500 to 5,000 1 tablespoon dium speed 3 minutes or 300 strokes by hand. Clean
sides of bowl with scraper.
5,000 to 6,500 2 tablespoons Add an additional 3/4 cup milk and flavoring and
beat for 2 minutes or 200 strokes. Pour into 10-inch
6,500 to 8,000 3 tablespoons tube pan in which the bottom has been greased and
floured. Remove from oven and cool upright completely
8,000 and over 4 tablespoons before removing cake from pan.

Where two amounts appear below, try the smaller YEAST BREADS
adjustment first. If the cake still needs improvement, Good basic recipes for yeast breads are reliable at most
use the larger adjustment (table 3). altitudes, but as fermentation of sugar in bread is faster
at higher altitudes, bread may rise in one-third to one-
fourth of the time required at lower altitudes. Watch
Table 3. Leavening, sugar, and liquid adjustments carefully and punch down when dough doubles in bulk.
Adjustment 3,000 ft 5,000 ft 7,000 ft As one package of yeast can raise 12 cups of flour, some
Baking powder cooks will reduce the yeast by half and punch down the
For each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 tsp 1/8 to 1/4 tsp 1/4 tsp dough when it doubles in bulk.
Sugar To prevent dry yeast breads, add about three-fourths
For each cup, decrease 0 - 1 Tbsp 0 - 2 Tbsp 1 - 3 Tbsp of the flour specified in the recipe or enough to make a
Liquid stiff batter. Allow batter to absorb moisture for about
For each cup, add 1 - 2 Tbsp 2 - 4 Tbsp 3 - 4 Tbsp ten minutes. Add only enough flour to make a soft
dough that is handled easily.

Because of the varying proportions of ingredients in

recipes, definite rules cannot be strictly applied for all COOKIES
recipe adjustments Each recipe needs to be tested indi- Although many sea-level cookie recipes yield acceptable
vidually. Always pencil in changes made to “scratch” results at high altitudes, they often can be improved by
recipes. a slight increase in baking temperature; a slight decrease
in baking powder or soda, fat, and sugar; and/or a slight
Quick-Mix Pound Cake increase in liquid ingredients and flour.
The high sugar ratio in this cake is balanced by the Many cookie recipes contain a higher proportion of
emulsifier in the shortening that allows for a large sugar and fat than necessary, even at low altitudes. For
amount of liquid. This excellent recipe does not con- more nutritious cookies with fewer calories, up to one-
form to the general rule for adjustment of cake recipes. fourth of the sugar can be replaced with nonfat dry milk
powder without loss in product quality.

Guide E-215 • Page 3

Biscuits: Any standard recipe can be relied on to give Good, high-quality foods can be prepared at any alti-
good results at varying altitudes. However, adding a tude. To assure success at high altitudes, remember
tablespoon of milk to each cup of flour and reducing these four principles:
baking powder slightly will improve the quality of the
product at high altitudes. • Decrease leavening in cakes.
• Either decrease yeast or allow bread to rise a
Muffins: If muffins seem dry, reduce sugar by at least
shorter time when making yeast-leavened breads.
one teaspoon. Otherwise, standard muffin recipes work
well at most altitudes. • Foods cooked in liquids, with or without a pres-
sure saucepan, must by cooked longer.
Fruit, Nut, Vegetable Quick Breads: If these breads • Cook candy, frosting, and jelly to lower finish
seem dry, reduce sugar. Usually both shortening and temperatures.
sugar can be reduced by as much as one-fourth of the
total amount specified and still provide a tasty bread. Extension publications on high-altitude, home can-
ning are available by calling (505) 646-2701, or online
Popovers: Popover batter is strengthened if the egg at www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs.
in the batter is increased and the shortening reduced.
This creates a stronger batter to retain the steam long
enough for a crust to form. Creampuffs do not require
any correction for altitude.

Original publication written by Alice Jane

POPOVERS Hendley, Extension Specialist Emerita
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon margarine or butter, melted

Oven temperature: 450°

Yield: 11 medium popovers
Pan: Grease popover cup or muffin tin cups

Sift flour, salt, and sugar together. Combine milk,

eggs, and butter or margarine and add it to the dry
ingredients. Beat the mixture until smooth and well
blended (1-4 minutes).
Pour batter into greased popover or deep muffin
pans, fill each cup half full and bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 325° and continue baking for 25 min-
utes. Popovers are done when side walls are firm.

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture cooperating.
Revised March 2005 Las Cruces, NM
Guide E-215 • Page 4